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In monster manual and Volo's Guide to Monsters there is a firbolg race with following racial trait:

Speech of Beast and Leaf. You have the ability to communicate in a limited manner with Beasts, Plants, and vegetation. They can understand the meaning of your words, though you have no special ability to understand them in return. You have advantage on all Charisma checks you make to influence them.

But also most of the plants or even all of them in "standard forest" (the one without Treants) have 0 Intelligence. That indicates it cannot speak, understand or just anything. Plants seem to lack clear motivations other than nutrition and need to expand in a given area.

So it seems like useless ability in this manner if the player cannot use it practical way, created only in immersive purposes.

I am not referring to Speak with plants spell, because this spell give a temporary intelligence to the plant - at least this is what I understood from the description.

I could not convince my GM to give me any information. I asked the plant: "Please show me direction to nearest drinking water pond" (I hoped it will use branch to show me the direction).

How can firbolg's Speech of Beast and Leaf be used in game?

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1 Answer 1

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It is useful with beasts or special plants

The ability says:

They can understand the meaning of your words, though you have no special ability to understand them in return.

And there are no qualifications on Intelligence for this. Even if they are creatures without meaningful intelligence1, they somehow can understand the meaning of your words. The specific ability here overrides the general rule of what it means to have a given intelligence score.

Although they may understand you, you still have the problem that a plant may not be able to move its limbs, if it is not a special plant creature that can do so. As they can neither speak with you, nor move their branches, for normal plants there may not be any useful way to communicate back to you.

That does not mean the ability is no use: there are a lot of plant creatures in the game, and some have no languages or do only speak a language chosen by their creator which may not be one you speak. And of course, most beasts have intelligence of at least 1, and some of them even up to 6 (like an ape). It can be useful to be able to talk with them in a way they understand, and have advantage on influencing them.

Anything beyond that is up you DM. The ability to me has a distinct fairy-tale like quality to it, so a DM might decide to allow normal plants to do things they normally could not to make it a bit more fun. You might also want to discuss the use of this ability off-table with your DM, to collaboratively work out how it could work in play to talk with a normal plant. It seems it would not be overpowered or unbalancing to allow this to some extent.


1 According to the PHB, p. 173, even plants when given game statistics would need to have at least 1 Intelligence, because the rules say:

The Ability Scores and Modifiers table notes the ability modifiers for the range of possible ability scores, from 1 to 30.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Btw, are there actual rules concerning what it means to have INT score of 0? \$\endgroup\$
    – J.E
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.E There are no specific rules what the various scores mean, but you can infer it from the general guideline that everyday things behave as in the real world. So trees would be as smart (or not) as trees in the real world \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 11:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't you die if a stat is reduced to zero? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also this may be quite accurate, but this is a case where working with your DM isn't just advisable but is almost required. I think this answer would be much better with more advice on how to approach the DM, things like how it isn't unbalancing to let plants convey certain info, and how letting players know stuff usually improves the game and that letting class abilities be effective also keeps players happy. It's not a bad answer because it's correct, but it could be better. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri You may be porting in something form 3.5e, but, if you look at how a Shadow reduces strength, in that specific case you do: Strength Drain...one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) necrotic damage, and the target's Strength score is reduced by 1d4. The target dies if this reduces its Strength to 0. Otherwise, the reduction lasts until the target finishes a short or long rest - compare to feeblemind... creature's Intelligence and Charisma scores become 1. The creature can't cast spells, activate magic items, understand language, or communicate in any intelligible way \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 11:56

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